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History up for auction

FD?Women’s Club, former Dolliver home to sell May 7

March 4, 2012
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

A rare piece of Fort Dodge history is going to be available for purchase this spring.

The Fort Dodge Women's Clubhouse, 915 Second Ave. S, former home of prominent Fort Dodger and Republican United States Sen. Jonathan P. Dolliver, will be sold at auction May 7.

The home, built in 1895 by Dolliver's father-in-law, George R. Pearsons, is situated in Fort Dodge's historic Oak Hill District and near such landmarks as the Ringland-Smeltzer House and the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
An Iowa State Historical Society marker sits in front of the Fort Dodge Women’s Club at 915 Second Ave. S. in the Oak Hill District that gives facts about Jonathan Dolliver, who lived from 1858 to 1910 and was an early leader in the area.

The Oak Hill District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

"You don't often get the chance to buy a home of this stature," said auctioneer Keith Dencklau. "This is a chance for someone to own a piece of our town's history."

According to records from the Webster County assessor, The three-story, 4,426-square-foot brick home has been converted to a four-family dwelling, with three apartments on the second floor.

The main floor currently features a spacious foyer and living room area with decorative woodwork, rounded windows, a large fireplace and stained glass. The kitchen and dining area has several built-in cabinets and drawers, including a built-in china cabinet. The dining room has original hardwood floors.

Originally, the home featured a parlor, music room, dining room, kitchen and pantry on the first floor, five bedrooms and a large bathroom on the second floor and rooms on the third floor. A 1973 article documenting the home's history said it once had a hollow stone in the rounded window of the foyer with a fountain.

High maintenance and upkeep costs, as well as dwindling membership numbers led members of the Women's Club to make the decision to sell the house, which has been their meeting place since 1935, club member Donna Gutknecht said.

"We're down to 14 members," said Gutknecht. "We do use the house, but only for two meetings a month. We had a leak and had to replace the ceiling in the kitchen and the second floor in November. We had insurance to cover that, but decided if it were ever to need anything major, the best decision was to sell the property."

The club will observe its 100th anniversary this year. However, no formal celebration is planned at this time, Gutknecht said.

"We don't have anything planned because of the discontinuing of our clubhouse," she said. "But we will still be in existence as a club. We will probably meet once or twice a month at different restaurants."

According to historical records, the home is not the first to have been erected on the land, located in what was once known as East Fort Dodge. The north half of the once 160-acre lot was purchased by C.C. Smeltzer in 1868, and a gypsum house was constructed. Pearsons acquired the property in 1887. The original home was destroyed by fire in 1889.

Pearsons was a prominent early-day Fort Dodge resident and a pioneer in the development of the Illinois Central Railroad in Fort Dodge, local historian Roger Natte said. Pearsons also served on the school board for many years and two terms as mayor of Fort Dodge. He built the current home in 1895, the same year his daughter, Louise, married Dolliver.

The Dollivers acquired the home following Pearsons' death in 1904. They raised three children, Margaret, Francis and Jonathan, in the home.

Dolliver served in the United States House of Representatives from 1888 until he became senator in 1900. In 1900, Dolliver was considered for the vice-presidential nomination under presidential candidate William McKinley. However, Theodore Roosevelt received the nomination, Natte said.

"Dolliver was involved in a lot of things," said Natte. "He was very progressive, and he was looked at as a progressive leader. In 1900, he was asked to serve as McKinley's vice-presidential candidate, but he was happy to be a senator. In those days, the vice presidency was sort of a dead-end. Not many of them moved, so he turned down the nomination. McKinley died in 1901, and Dolliver easily could have become president."

Although he spent the majority of his time in Washington, D.C., Dolliver lived in the home until he died of heart failure in 1910 at the age of 52. A 1989 article on the home said his wife remained in the home for many years, and the Women's Club purchased it in 1935 from Dolliver heirs.

Over the years, the home has undergone renovations, with the most recent in 1968 when the club enlarged the meeting room to the west. It also includes a small patio and a deck on the rear of the property.

The house remains in good condition, although some updates may need to be made to the kitchen as well as to plumbing and electrical wiring, Dencklau said.

"It's in very good shape; very well maintained,"said Dencklau. "If the upstairs were converted this could be a seven- or eight-bedroom house. It's one of this bigger historic homes in the area. It would make someone a very nice home."

The auction will begin at 5 p.m. with a sale of some of the building's contents. The house auction will take place at 6 p.m.

Dencklau said it is a home that is hard to place a specific dollar value upon.

"I don't know what it might sell for," said Dencklau. "It depends on who you get bidding. If you get two people bidding against each other it could go pretty high."

Because it is a historic property, there are only certain uses for which the buyer may designate the home, said Angela Torres, associate planner for the city of Fort Dodge.

"It's zoned historical residential," said Torres. "There are three uses permitted. It can be a single-family home, public parks and recreation open space or a family/elder family home."

"There's a lot of opportunity here," Dencklau said. "It's not every day you get the chance to buy a home like this."

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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